Which Gaming Moments Made You Question Your Intelligence?

Image: Nintendo Life

Human beings are smart. Really smart.

We’re the only species on earth with the brainpower to comprehend its own existence. We’ve landed on the moon, built great feats of engineering, constructed huge buildings that pierce the clouds in the sky, and made tremendous leaps in the fields of science and medicine. So yeah, we’re a clever bunch, all told.

This makes it all the more embarrassing when we have moments that have us truly questioning our own intelligence. Moments that stoke the imposter syndrome and make us think “huh, maybe I’m not that smart after all”. When we have these moments, it’s good to talk about them. Admitting our own minor setbacks and laughing it off in the company of our peers can be exceptionally liberating. It makes us realise that we’re all in the same boat, just trying to navigate our way through life as best as we can.

With this in mind, we thought we’d share our own shameful gaming moments that made us question our intelligence; seemingly simple tasks or mechanics that should, in theory, prove to be no issue whatsoever, and yet kept us stumped for much longer than we’d usually care to admit, with the eventual revelation coming as both an incredible relief and an extreme embarrassment.

Did I really get stuck here? Gosh…

Ollie Reynolds, Ball Dropper

Metroid Prime
Image: Nintendo Life

Playing through Metroid Prime Remastered over 20 years after I initially booted the original up on the GameCube, it reminded me of a rather embarrassing moment during the game’s opening tutorial section on the Space Pirate Frigate.

I turned the GameCube off in frustration. “I’m clearly not cut out for this experience,” I thought.

You see, at this point in the game, Samus has many of her core abilities intact; it’s only when you actually escape the Frigate and land on the nearby planet Tallon IV that she loses them all. So, Missiles? Check. Grapple Beam? Check. Morph Ball? Check. I knew I had the Morph Ball, because I tested it out directly after jumping off my ship. And yet…

There’s a moment about ten minutes into the game where you come across a locked door. Scanning the monitor in front states that in order to open said door, you need to “insert metallic sphere” into an indentation on the ground. Naturally, of course, this is referring to Samus’ Morph Ball ability, but for reasons I still can’t quite comprehend to this day, I must have spent a good two hours or so scouring the rooms I’d already visited for some sort of spherical object. Over and over and over... Obviously, I didn’t find one.

No joke, when I finally realised that the game was referring to the Morph Ball ability, I turned the GameCube off in frustration. “I’m clearly not cut out for this experience,” I thought. I went back to it a few hours later when I’d calmed down, and I’m so grateful for doing so, because the journey afterwards was mostly plain sailing, and it resulted in one of the most thrilling gaming experiences of my life.

Metallic sphere… Hahaha. If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry.

Alana Hagues, Ninja Neglecter

Image: Nintendo Life

Shame on me, but Final Fantasy VI was one of the last Final Fantasy games I beat. Yet, over 20 years after the game first came out, I made a huge mistake, one that shocked plenty of people. I know others have done this too, but look, the game pretty obviously hints at what you should do. So it’s time to confess. Spoilers for Final Fantasy VI ahead…

Around the halfway point of the game, you’re on the Floating Continent. You’ve rescued a former ally, Shadow, who you found out was secretly working for the Empire, and he chooses to join the Returners until you confront Kefka and Emperor Gestahl at the Warring Triad, where Shadow leaves. A lot happens, and you’re forced to escape the Floating Continent in a limited amount of time.

when I told my friends, they were shocked. I’ve been branded a ninja murderer

When there’s a time limit in the corner of a screen, I always panic, and so I see this clock ticking down as I’m running around the Floating Continent, trying to save the party’s lives, and I think “I need to get out of here fast“. I got to the end, and below me, the Blackjack was floating, waiting for me. Then the game gave me a choice — jump or wait. Not even thinking, I selected ‘Jump’. And we escaped. It didn’t once twig that hey, Alana, there’s a timer and the game is suggesting for you to wait. Why? Had I said ‘Wait’, and tried to jump again, the game would’ve specifically suggested “Gotta wait for Shadow…”. Literally, the game put flashing warning signs in front of me and I just totally ignored them.

It was only when I got about five hours into the World of Ruin and I was rounding up the rest of the Returners again and I was like, wait, where’s my favourite ninja? As it turns out… I couldn’t. He’s permanently dead, and there’s nothing I could do about it. Oops. I still saved the world and ended Kefka’s reign as God, but with some extra blood on my hands…

I’m glad I’m not the only one who did this, but when I told my friends, they were shocked. I’ve been branded a ninja murderer despite the signs Final Fantasy VI gave me. It’s not obvious like “fire magic heals the fire enemy” — maybe if I’d done this as a kid I’d feel a bit better about it. But I was in my 20s. The internet was right there.

Or I could have just, you know, read.

Jim Norman, Arrow Avoider

Lego Star Wars
Image: Eidos Interactive

The year was 2005. The game was LEGO Star Wars on the GBA. Yep, this title might not match up to the others on this list in the ranking of ‘best games eva’, but it was still enough to stump little ol’ me.

I got lost. In a Lego game.

As anyone who has ever played a Lego game will be able to tell you, these levels are pretty straightforward. You move from a clearly-defined point A to an equally clear point B, solving some not-too-head-scratching puzzles along the way and getting involved in some very simple single-button combat. True, the 100% collectathon that comes after can be challenging, but my issue came with point one of the aforementioned list: I got lost. In a Lego game.

There was one level (I forget which episode) where you are trundling along as R2-D2, dropping mines, and using your hover ability to cross gaps. I emphasise hover in this instance because, well, it was pretty important. After making it so far, I was faced by a big gap with a series of studs across it. Unlike the other gaps that I had come across to this point, I couldn’t see the other side. “I suppose that’s just a hole that leads to nowhere,” I concluded, after using R2’s limited hover ability to fly out, collect the studs and then fly back to my side. The safe side.

I then found myself at something of a dead end. With nowhere left unexplored apart from this giant hole in front of me, where was I possibly supposed to go? I kept turning off my GBA and rebooting the level — this had to be a hardware problem, right? What I neglected to think about was the gap’s hovering studs that I had collected so many times were lying in the shape of — you guessed it — an arrow. All you had to do was follow the direction of the arrow and the scrolling screen would move with you, showing you the other side of the pit.

Whether it’s the shame of blaming the hardware or my complete negligence around the massive arrow in front of me (bear in mind that the GBA version was from an isometric perspective, making the direction even clearer) I’ll never know. But one thing I am sure of is how that gap still haunts me. If a Lego game — or any game, for that matter — presents you with a giant arrow, kids, you should probably follow it.

Liam Doolan, Pokémon Master

Image: NIntendo Life

Not long after I got Pokémon Blue on Game Boy, I decided to use my first-ever Master Ball on a Jigglypuff.

I even saved the game file… d’oh!

Gavin Lane, Barrel Blocker

Sonic 3
Image: Sega

This one is something millions of us ran into, but I can’t think of anything quite so simple that stalled me for so long: the Sonic 3 ‘barrel’.

For those not in the know, this was a rotating bouncy cylinder that blocked your path in Carnival Night Zone. The key to getting past it is to realise that you can affect the barrel’s elastic-y bounce by alternately pushing up and down on the D-pad, thus propelling the platform down far enough to access the next part of the level and spin dash on your merry way.

Bearing in mind how elementary Sonic 3’s controls are (the D-pad and a single button), to get stumped on this until the timer ran out multiple times did make me question my sanity when I finally found out how to get past the thing. Erstwhile NL contributor and Retronaut Stuart Gipp wrote about it a few years back, quite rightly admonishing anyone dim enough to be outfoxed by a bloody barrel. No excuses, here. My bad.

Silly me

Ah… We feel better now that’s off our chests. Now, we’d love to hear your stories, too. Do you have any moments in gaming that made you question your own intelligence? Moments that, until this day, you’ve been simply too embarrassed to tell anybody?

Don’t worry, we’re all friends here. Share your story in the comments section below.

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